Originally created 02/13/98

Perfect jobs

Steve Knittel loves his job.

Bettie Jackson loves her job.

And Barry Smith loves his job, too.

But they are in the minority, career counselors say. Most people have jobs they don't enjoy, and it makes their lives unpleasant. So even on Valentine's Day, a day for loving, if folks don't love their job, they're not likely to be happy, experts say.

Dr. Knittel, Ms. Jackson and Mr. Smith each chose different career paths.

Dr. Knittel, 33, is a veterinarian at the Paradise Animal Hospital. He has the job he's wanted since he was 5. Ms. Jackson, 51, is a resource teacher at Tobacco Road Elementary. She has been teaching for 30 years. And Mr. Smith, 45, is the director of trees and landscaping for the Augusta-Richmond County consolidated government. He makes the Garden City blossom.

There's something about every job, that everyone loves. It may be kittens, kids or calla lilies. Whatever it is, job counselors say, finding a job that you love is essential to living a full and happy life.

"We get so much of our identity from work," says psychologist Joseph Frey III. "That's why it's important."

Dr. Frey, a career counselor with The Highlands Program, believes many people aren't in jobs that they love and says that sends them into a downward spiral of stress. It affects their relationships with others and infiltrates their home life. People spend 8 to 12 hours a day working, and if someone doesn't like his job, that's a long time to spend being unhappy, Dr. Frey says.

As a career assessment counselor, Dr. Frey helps his clients determine their proficiency for various careers with scientific tests. But knowing that a job is right for them has to come from within, he says. It is a sense of destiny, an inner feeling and a satisfying acknowledgement.

"You never know for sure," Dr. Frey says. "But, you wind up feeling like you do."

So how do Dr. Knittel, Ms. Jackson and Mr. Smith know that they found the right job? They just do, each says in his or her own way.

For Dr. Knittel, veterinary medicine was something he knew he wanted to pursue from an early age. He grew up on a small farm in South Dakota and tended livestock.

"I always looked forward to those days," he says. "I didn't want the day to end."

Dr. Knittel went off to college and became a vet and about 9 months ago, he bought the Paradise Animal Hospital. He can now say he truly works in paradise.

Ms. Jackson also was influenced at an early age.

She came from a family of teachers. As a little girl she would play "school" with her dolls and cousins. Now, she teaches 122 kindergarten and first-grade students.

"I love it," she says.

How does she know?

"It's just an inner feeling," she says. "It's when you want to be at work when you're sick and when you're tired at the end of the day because you know you put in a full day's work."

Mr. Smith was in his senior year of college when he decided what job he wanted.

He thought he was going to be a doctor, like his dad, until one day he came home from college and realized what he really liked was plants.

"You cannot do something you do not like," Mr. Smith recalled his father telling him. His father helped him search through the course catalog for another major.

Mr. Smith, who was making B's and C's as a pre-med major, switched to horticulture studies and made A's. Now, several years later, he manages a team of 68 workers and keeps the city in bloom.

"If you can possibly fall in love with your job, you have fought 90 percent of the battle," Mr. Smith surmises. "Confidence is the other 10 percent."

Mr. Smith can't imagine doing anything else.

"I guess," he acknowledges, "I am in love with my job."

Career assessment questions

Here is a quick quiz developed by The Highlands Program, a career assessment center, that can help you decide whether your job is right for you.

Score each statement with a 1 (not at all like me), 2 (not very much like me), 3 (sometimes yes, sometimes no), 4 (a little like me) or 5 (a lot like me).

Total the scores.

  • I feel my career expresses the most important aspects of who I am.
  • I feel my decisions determine the course of my career.
  • I feel in control of my career.
  • I feel creative at work.I feel that the work I do makes a positive impact.
  • I feel that I have a good balance between work and family.
  • I feel that my input and contribution at work are valued.I feel that I have positive options for myself at work.
  • I am interested in what I do.When I look to the future, I see new and interesting challenges.
  • How did you do? If you scored:

  • 10-24, "It's time for a heart to heart talk." You are dissatisfied.
  • 25-34, "Love me, love me not?" You have concerns.
  • 35-44, "Is this really love?" You are optimistic about your career.
  • 45-50, "True love." You love your job.

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